September 30, 2021

Haskell CPG Leaders Offer Four Key Takeaways from Pack Expo

No one was sure what to expect from the mega trade show, but Haskell's Dave Bartels and Keith Perkey were pleasantly surprised by robust attendance.

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No one knew quite what to expect at Pack Expo -- the mega trade show billed as the world’s most comprehensive packing and processing event in 2021 -- when it was held Monday through Wednesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The event was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the emergence of the virus’s Delta variant created uncertainty for exhibitors and attendees this year about the value potential of this year’s in-person return.

Two of the dozen or so Haskell team members attending, Dave Bartels, Vice President of Planning and Development in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), and Keith Perkey, Vice President of Manufacturing Solutions in CPG, have participated in the event for many years. Each said he was pleasantly surprised by turnout.

After having covered the equivalent of a half-marathon walking among the acres of process and packaging displays from 1,500 exhibiting vendors, Bartels and Perkey shared their four biggest takeaways from the event.

1. Attendance Was Down and Different, But Good

Consensus among exhibitors was that attendance was down about 25% from a typical pre-pandemic Expo, and there was a shift in the demographics of those who were there.

“I think this event was a little more attended than I thought it was going to be, given the current pandemic,” Bartels said. “I think the makeup of the attendees was different than usual. You didn’t see as many large, branded CPG companies in attendance. And if you did, you saw fewer attendees from them. Most of the companies in attendance were smaller and mid-sized companies.”

Another notable departure from the norm: International participation was all but nonexistent, ostensibly because of travel restrictions and logistical difficulties.

2. Business is Booming

In conjunction with the show’s opening, PMMI released its “State of the Industry U.S. Packaging Machinery Report,” which said the market grew 14.4% to a record $12.3 billion in 2020 and predicted growth to $12.8 billion in 2021. The report added that soaring sales and widespread supply chain challenges had led to a backlog of $3.14 billion, or 22.3%.

Anecdotal evidence from partners and suppliers told the same story.

“I think one of the things I take away was it validated what we thought: We thought that the industry is really busy, and we were right,” Perkey said. “Everybody we talked to was going strong. All the suppliers are busy, and the message was consistent. There’s a lot of work out there, lead times are extended, and suppliers have specific issues with control components and electronic parts.”

3. Evolution Not Revolution, As Usual

In row after row of elaborate displays, manufacturers demonstrated their latest and greatest. To be sure, each was eager to tell attendees about their company’s unmatched innovation. But while Perkey saw a handful of changes that turned his head, he said this year’s show didn’t produce the newest killer app.

“It’s rare that you see something that’s revolutionary,” Perkey said. “It may be that once every five or six years something will come along that makes a big change in the industry, but usually it’s more of an evolution. There’s a concentrated effort to move toward increased automation, and you see incremental improvements in equipment.”

4. It’s Good to be Back

Like any trade show, Pack Expo is a networking event extraordinaire, and both Bartels and Perkey renewed ties with dozens of colleagues from across the industry.

“It’s good to interact with your network of people, clients, and people you've worked with over the years at an event like this,” Bartels said. “There's always value in maintaining those relationships and have conversations about business activities throughout those conversations.

“I think we've had some good conversations about companies that could potentially help us from a partnership standpoint. We had some good conversations with potential new clients We had several good discussions with OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) on our existing and past partnerships and potential future engagements.”

Haskell delivers more than $1 billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 1,800 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.

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